Cuba: Finding the Reality that the News Media Emporiums Try to Hide

By Gustavo A. Maranges on January 25, 2022 from Havana

BT news team visits communities for unannounced interviews

The Cuban reality has become one of the most common topics among the main hegemonic media of the Western Hemisphere since July 11, 2021. “Shortages”, “unfair trials”, “lack of freedoms,” are the main keywords that grace their headlines. Those who look no further than these stories could get the image of a Cuba that does not exist, an island where “Human Rights are violated”. This “reality” is the false version those people listen to exhaustion every time the word Cuba comes up in the news.

Mainstream media has worked over time to display Cubans as unhappy people suffering the consequences of a “failed” social and political project, while they deliberately hide the causes of these problems. When media corporations perceive issues in a country, they use them to blame the government for them, especially if they are part of the mechanism in trying to bring down a nation’s authorities. However, despite this being a widespread practice among many outlets, real journalism is still, first and foremost, an exercise of honesty.

This is exactly what a team of journalists from the US wanted to do when they arrived in Cuba a week ago. The BreakThrough News Team (BT), a young and very talented group of people, who are committed to real journalism, were eager to show and explain to the American people and the world the full specter of the Cuban reality at the beginning of 2022. The task was colossal but never bigger than the curiosity and work capability of these three people.

The BT team was eager to know everything about a country so demonized abroad. For truth’s sake, they met all kinds of Cubans ranging: from people on the streets to family doctors, scientists, intellectuals, local journalists, and public officials from different ministries.

They performed over ten formal interviews in five days, which is a lot of work but after knowing them, I understood that not everybody can be so productive and efficient, not even major Cuba-based news agencies. The three journalists also did some fact-checking off the record by going to restaurants and cafes to talk to people. That’s how they had the chance to meet a cross section characters that make up Cuba’s daily life.

Probably, the most impacting fact was the national health care system, which they already knew was free of charge. But sometimes, knowing in advance does not grant a full understanding. Exchanging with doctors and joining them in the clinic and throughout their community work was shocking in a good way. They got to know the secret of Cuban medicine: prevention, a word they heard from patients, health care personnel, and Cuban scientists more than once.

After the first talk with a group of women who run the clinic, they realized that Cuban doctors and nurses were far from being “slaves”, as the media abroad tries to portray. “Cuban doctors do care about their salaries, and we are fully aware that we would make more money in other countries. However, the best reward we receive is a healthy patient, especially if we are the only option they have,” Dr. Sandra said to the BT team, which could not control its astonishment at the lies so often repeated by the U.S. government.

Later, after getting to know the essence of the Cuban health system, it was not difficult to understand how Cuba managed to vaccinate over 90 percent of its population in eight months and with homegrown vaccines. It was also easy to show the little vaccine hesitancy existing in Cuba.

But the best part came perhaps from the relaxed and funny talk the journalists had with the Finlay Institute of Vaccines’ Director Vicente Velez, who explained to the BT team why Cuba has the safest vaccines for children, Soberana 02.

The exchange with the scientists who are behind the production of not one but five homegrown vaccines was amazing. They could visit the lab where Cuban scientists proved that the Soberana 02 vaccine indeed was useful. It was impossible not to imagine that moment, because it marked a difference between life and death for millions of people, not only in Cuba but all over the world.

The BT team felt a little overwhelmed because of the avalanche of information coming from primary sources from every single major issue in the country. Time was tight enough to be able to take in all the information but too little to capture everybody’s feelings. There was so much humbleness in the interviews, so much love and commitment to make something good for others, anonymously almost always.

The three journalists also found time to get to understand the process that is taking place for an important law for all Cubans: the Families Code. They could not imagine that people will discuss it in their workplaces, as it happened with Cuba’s Constitution before it was passed into law back in 2019. Maybe they didn’t expect to find out how Cuba’s “socialist dictatorship” is even more democratic than in many of the democratic systems in developed capitalist countries.

An always-present topic was the US blockade. They came to realize just how deeply it affects our everyday life and its dangerous consequences to foster race, gender, and economic equality on the island. It was also painful to hear from patients and doctors that many of the over 8,000 COVID-19 related deaths on the island could have been avoided if this inhumane policy had been lifted or, at least, loosened during the pandemic.

What happened was the opposite. However, Cubans have a particular way of facing such harsh circumstances and covering the material lacks with their tremendous will to survive. The BT team got hear how thankful the Cuban people were for all the international solidarity and help in the hardest moments, which certainly made a difference.

When listening to people’s answers to BT questions, it is clear that Cubans are not blind or indoctrinated as a young Cuban said to Fox News recently in the US. They rather tend to be critics and honest about the many and different things they see with good eyes; issues that range from economic concerns, such as MLC (Freely Convertible Currency) stores and inflation to social and political matters related to LGTBIQ+ or Communications.

Nevertheless, one thing was evident; Cuba wants to solve their own problems by themselves, as a sovereign and self-determined country. Everybody, even public officials, were transparent about the challenges that the country faces, which might seem unthinkable for a country that supposedly lacks freedom of expression.

After being a witness of BT’s work in Cuba, I cannot stop thinking about why nothing of this is reflected in the corridors of the mainstream media? Why do they choose to depict the country exactly as the US Department of State tells them, when the reality is far richer and more complex? Is this just by chance? No, it is not, it is by design.

The problem with news media emporiums is not about not reporting favorably to Cuba in their articles. They usually use lies as arguments, so they’ll never publish an issue claiming that the same government accused of everything, is also responsible for the many good achievements that the BT team saw and will report in the coming days.

I bet that some people could be fired in CNN, The Washington Post, Deutsche Welle, or France 24 if they dare to say that the constantly criticized Cuban socialism is the one that made it possible to send doctors to Italy and many other nations, along with vaccines. They are not committed to the truth, but to the political interest of their funders, which is even worse than any of the alleged censorship existing in Cuba or Venezuela.

BT taught me that the exercise of journalism goes beyond the most interesting or the latest news. It has to do with transmitting feelings and building confidence in the audience by being obligated to nothing but to report the truth. That’s what they will say about Cuba. So, stay tuned to them where you will see some of the best reporting on Cuba you or I will have seen in a long time coming from US journalists.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – English